Picks and Pans Review: Marian Anderson
by Allan Keiler
In 1939 world-class contralto Marian Anderson was barred—because of her race—from performing an Easter concert in Washington's Constitution Hall when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to rent her the space. Instead, supported by the NAACP and Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial. In so doing she brought attention to both her magnificent voice and the reality of segregation in the capital.
This absorbing authorized biography puts Anderson's career before her skin color, but Brandeis University music professor Keiler, who interviewed the singer shortly before her death in 1993 at age 96, carefully documents both her musical evolution and civic triumphs. Though clearly awed by the stately vocalist who dressed in white satin, Keiler celebrates the humanitarian who served as a U.N. delegate, funded scholarships for black youth (both Jessye Norman and Leontyne Price auditioned for one but lost), mastered works by Brahms, Schubert and Sibelius and became the first African-American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. (Scribner, $30)
Bottom Line: Serious, engaging bio of the pioneering diva
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